The number of conflicting priorities facing leaders in the modern, VUCAH, business world is mind-boggling. I imagine many feel like they are set up to fail, and in many ways they are.
Innovation, growth, sustainability, M&A, digitization, transformation, exit strategies, brand, upskilling, restructuring, regulation, cost-management, AI-integration, customer experience, new products, and the list goes on. Any one of these is huge and complex, and frequently takes longer, costs more, and is more challenging than initially forecasted. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning!
Here’s another plate! Research study after research study over the past 10-years has found employee health and wellbeing to be a ‘top priority’ for the vast majority of CEO’s globally and yet;
– the wellbeing of the working population is declining
– the most commonly cited reasons for losing talent are related to wellbeing (Toxic company culture (62%), Low salary (59%), Poor management (56%), lack of healthy work-life boundaries (49%) and Not allowing remote work (43%) – FlexJobs 2022)
So, whilst CEOs may well intend for health and wellbeing to be a priority in their organizations, and organizations of 20,000+ employees are spending on average $11M (YES! You read that correctly!) on wellbeing, it is clear that current approaches simply aren’t delivering the goods!
In fact, it’s worse, a study by the University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre found that in some cases current strategies are actually worsening the situation not improving it by creating disingenuous ‘commitments’ also known as ‘well-washing’.
My guess is that wellbeing has become caught up in the bun fight for priorities and as a result often gets trumped by the other pressing issues, especially ones that demand immediate attention. This same conundrum happens throughout the whole organization as discussed in last week’s article about managers being constantly pulled in two conflicting directions.
But there’s another dimension to all this wellbeing prioritization business, and that is ‘what do we prioritise within our wellbeing strategy?’. Wellbeing, like it or not, is complex, variable, and multi-faceted and so knowing where to invest is tricky.
These two priority dimensions are interdependent. You see when faced with multiple priorities to choose from, we are most likely to lean into the ones we are most confident with. When time is tight (as it is for most executives and managers) we are going to prioritise the things that require the least headspace and take the most predictable amount of time. We are also going to default to our existing behaviour habits, because changing them takes time and effort we don’t feel we have. As a result, managers and leaders are going to be reluctant to enter the rabbit-hole of workplace wellbeing alone, even if our organization’s tell them they must. THIS is how wellbeing becomes a ‘priority’ that isn’t.
So, where’s the silver bullet here Bobbi?
The silver bullet (make sure you are sitting down for this one) is to prioritize wellbeing!
I know you are thinking, but you are a wellbeing consultant, of course you are going to say that…I hear ya, but, hear me out!
Wellbeing can be a driver of all the other priorities. Without a healthy, happy, resilient workforce, achieving anything becomes even more challenging, expensive, and time-consuming. The chances of failure also increase. So, what a low wellbeing workforce does (and by the way 99.99999% of organizations have a low wellbeing workforce to some degree at present) is create a downward spiral within your organization that has a detrimental impact on everything else.
Low wellbeing in the workplace, is like trying to climb Everest and someone attaching a net of bricks to your waist for you to drag behind you, and then takes your walking poles and goggles away. Sure, it is still possible to summit, but it’s much less likely and will be more challenging and precarious too. Why make life so difficult when it doesn’t need to be?
By not only reducing languishing wellbeing, but prioritising the creation of a high-wellbeing workforce, we increase agility, innovation, creativity, energy, engagement, joy, determination, team-cohesion, and loyalty. These are the very ingredients needed to deliver the other priorities.
Wellbeing should be the fuel for your business not a drag upon it.
If prioritising wellbeing alongside your other priorities feels absolutely impossible just now, you know where to find me!